In my wild dreams I own a wonderful walled kitchen garden and have so much space I can grow Pumpkins, Squashes and Gourds and should they take off like Triffids it will not inconvenience us.
My Walled Kitchen Garden would include all sorts of fruits, vegetables and beautiful flowers, there would be a wonderful greenhouse and places to sit, wildlife would be abundant and pollinators visit freely. Like minded folk would come to visit and share happy meals, cooked with the produce I grew for my family. There would be an orchard of Apple trees to hide in. We are still looking for that property and the small matter of a lottery win, in the meantime I visit walled gardens and dream.
Last weekend we visited the National Trust owned Wimpole Hall in Cambridgeshire and by happy co-incidence it was their annual 1940’s weekend.
Lots of displays from The Home Guard and Allies. 1940’s music, vintage vehicles and plenty of folk dressed up. Meanwhile in the Kitchen garden, The Womens Land Army were just quietly getting on with it.
The flower borders were brimming with colour and although some are cut for the house were plentiful. The simple traditional design, a central axis, leaving four enormous beds, each one the size of a tennis court for fruits, vegetables and companion planting, around the walled borders espaliered fruit trees. On one wall the marvellous Greenhouse where currently a part of it houses the Pumpkin display.
On the outside of the Walled Garden, long full borders lead onto the Apple Orchard.
The Wimpole estate is fortunate to include a farm – Home farm, where sheep, goats, cattle, pigs and horses are all cared for and as a consequence a rich supply of manure is available to the Kitchen Garden. We had visited the farm several times before when the children were small so headed off to the house itself and a walk past the formal parterre garden.
Beyond the formal garden is 3,000 acres of parkland and farmland, its a wonderful place to walk and dream.
Wimpole was given to the National Trust following the death of Elsie Bambridge the daughter of Rudyard Kipling in 1976. Kipling’s own home Batemans in Sussex was also given to the National Trust, Elsie and her husband George leased Wimpole from 1932 and finally bought the estate in 1936 after Kipling died and with her inheritance restored the property and grounds.
Produce from the walled garden is used in the Restaurant, it was packed during our visit, so we headed to the Stable yard cafe, pleased to say they served a very good gluten free chocolate cake and a decent coffee.
We visited Alnwick Gardens, the Duchess of Northumberland’s visionary garden in late June, a floral dip time for many. We were in Northumberland primarily for a walking holiday, staying in Alnmouth on the coast. The beach is incredibly beautiful, just a few miles from the town and home of Alnwick garden and castle.
On to contemporary Alnwick on Sunday, where dogs are not allowed, a whistle stop tour, whilst Archie was cared for by my daughter and treated to another Northumberland walk – he did not complain. I had read a little before we visited and had watched a documentary some years ago on the building of the Grand Cascade, so felt excited to visit.
Jacques and his son Peter Wirtz, garden designers from Belgium are creating the garden, Flanked by clipped Hornbeam tunnels, the Grand Cascade is the central show stopper. Every half hour fountains erupt and dance down the cascade culminating in a last hurrah in the pool at the bottom, all of this lasting 10 minutes then all is calm again. People picnic on the lawn in front, or eat in the vast pavilion which looks across and up the cascade, children play on enormous tractors, it looked fun. We drank coffee sitting in the pavilion watching and wishing our children were small again.
Across the lawns and onto the Poison Garden tour, behind locked gates and a fundraiser by donation to the Alnwick Garden Trust drug awareness work, school parties are also invited and from there the aim is discussion on the dangers of drugs.
A walk to the top of the Grand Cascade revealed the large formal garden. Pleached crab apples and iron uprights provided the balance to borders of Delphiniums and Roses. Along the surrounding walls more borders of perennials, no dip time here and more roses looking fabulous.
We moved onto the Rose Garden abundant with well yes Roses. Everywhere Roses of all shapes sizes and colours. Don’t get me wrong I love Roses, but was a tad overwhelmed and really wanted all of the other people to go away so I could enjoy them on my own.
We walked onto the Cherry Orchard, where a gentle path winds up through the Cherry trees. Too late in the year to enjoy the blossom of 350 Great White Cherrys, underplanted with 50,000 Purple Sensation Alliums and thousands of ‘Pink Mistress’ Tulips. Late April and May is the time to go.
Alnwick have appointed a man from Disney into the marketing team, his influence was clear, thats not a criticism, I get it, running these large gardens cost a great deal of money and positively encouraging and including children is a good move. A glance at their website reveals his influence, water pistol days throughout the summer holidays for one. But also a balance, lots of music and art. I have started to volunteer with a horticultural therapy project and was really interested to learn Alnwick have several similar projects running in the garden. Alnwick castle, next door and a separate entrance fee to the gardens is also known as the Hogwarts castle as it was used as a location for a couple of the Harry Potter films. There is a wonderful albeit disneyfied tree house restaurant with children firmly in mind. Alnwick has enjoyed some controversy, mainly over its build cost and not everyone likes it but its a garden for all ages and if you love Roses, its certainly worth a visit.
From the many rose photographs I could not choose a favourite, so decided to add just one. The Garden is open all year round and I can recommend the coffee!
In the grounds of Lindisfarne Castle is a small walled garden, designed by Gertrude Jeykll.
Lindisfarne Castle was originally built in 1570 as an Elizabethan fort. Following an uneventful 300 years and the removal of guns and soldiers in 1893 it lay empty and neglected. Edward Hudson the founder of Country Life magazine, by good fortune took his holiday in Northumberland, discovered the castle and the spectacular location and views, took out a lease and enlisted Edward Lutyens and Gertrude Jekyll to transform it into a holiday retreat. In 1906 Gertrude travelled to Northumberland by train with her good friend Edward Lutyens, they were transported by rowing boat across 3 miles of North Sea to Holy Island and the neglected castle.
Hudson had wanted a water garden, incorporating the boggy area in the sweeping field behind the castle, a tennis court and croquet lawn. Funds did not stretch that far, so Gertrude was to focus on the old garrison vegetable plot across the field from the castle. Hudson planned the holiday retreat to be used mainly in the summer, so plants were chosen to be in flower during July and August.
In order to plant the crag on which the castle stands, Gertrude supposedly fired seeds at the rock face from a large fowling gun and lowered a small island boy, 7 year old Harry Walker, in a basket from the Upper Battery to access the difficult ledges. I am not sure what remains here of her original gun shot plants and Harrys hair-raising planting, but now its mainly some very pretty Centranthus.
Looking back from Gertrude’s garden are 3 upturned Herring boats, cut in half and used as storage sheds. Edward Hudson had these installed and of the three the one on the left is an original, the other two being renewed by the national trust.
A project was set up in 2002 to restore Gertude’s planting plan, originally first implemented in 1911, 5 years after her initial visit.
The garden is really charming and an unexpected discovery along the wild and romantic Northumberland coast.
We visited Lindisfarne Castle and Northumberland in late June, whilst on our first holiday up north, the lake district was the furthest north we had previously ventured. We are southerners, usually holidays at home are on the east, west or south coasts. We should of gone before, Northumberland is absolutely beautiful, spectacular coastlines, lots of wildlife, fabulous gardens, incredible scenery, excellent walks, hardly any people and despite my fears and a car full of wet weather gear it was very warm and the only rain on the day we visited here. Lindisfarne Castle is managed by the National Trust. Gertude’s garden was a bonus, the castle and island are fascinating and rich in atmospheric delights. To reach the castle, which is situated on Holy Island its vital to check tide times before crossing the causeway link road as access is at low tide only, upto 3 miles of the causeway is covered by the rising tide, so timing is everything. I can’t wait to go back.